Gyptian - Topic

Choices Play

Capitalizing on his 2010 international breakthrough that saw Hold You's title track reach the Billboard Hot 100 and U.K. Top 20, Jamaican roots reggae vocalist Gyptian's earlier and less-familiar output is given a mainstream push with this Kingston Records compilation, Choices. Just as much of a showcase for Kemar "Flava" McGregor as it is for the permanently relaxed vocalist himself (only material featuring his production makes the cut, hence the omission of anthems "Serious Times" and "Beautiful Lady"), its 17 tracks might not paint the full picture of his five-year career, but it still manages to showcase his authentic blend of laid-back riddims, lovers rock melodies, and socially conscious lyrics. There are 11 songs plucked from 2006 debut My Name Is Gyptian, the highlights of which are the heartfelt ballad "Beng Beng," an emotive call for Jamaican gunmen to lay down their arms; the similarly themed gospel-tinged "Stop the Fussing and the Fighting"; and the Alton Ellis-sampling collaboration with Roundhead, "Through the Valley." But the five contributions from 2008 sophomore album I Can Feel Your Pain are what appear to have sown the seeds for his later commercial breakthrough, as he fuses the sounds of his hometown with R&B ("More Love"), acoustic soul ("Keep You Calm"), and tribal pop ("More Money"). His 2010 third effort, Revelations, is badly under-represented, with his faithful cover version of Israel Vibration's "Rudeboy Shuffling" the only contribution, ensuring that the compilation is fairly redundant for anyone who owns his first two records. Indeed, it's hard to see who Choices is supposed to appeal to, as there's nothing new for longtime fans, while those who have only recently succumbed to his charms on the back of his hit single will be disappointed to learn that very little here is similar to its bouncy dancehall sound. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

I Can Feel Your Pain Play

With the one-two punch of the "Serious Times" and "Beautiful Lady" singles in 2006, modern-day roots reggae singer Gyptian proved both sufferer's songs and lovers rock were at his command. Two years later his I Can Feel Your Pain album proves it was no fluke with moving songs of society and romance dominating while the singer's love of R&B enters the picture. In the case of the title cut, all three elements come together as the plaintive, falsetto Gyptian of "Serious Times" comforts his lover with crushed velvet, slow jam sounds that wouldn't be out of place on a Robin Thicke or Babyface record. It's a superb cut, one equally at home on Jamaican or R&B radio, but more than anything, it sounds genuine. The well-placed "f bomb" dropped in "Keep Your Calm" is further evidence this polished effort is no sellout, as is "Nobody No Cry," which focuses on the uncomfortable issue of how society values its poor. That said, the almost reggae-less "Love Against the Wall" is so grand and in love it could have come right off the end credits of some precious Hollywood production where the guy gets the girl. It's effective, as is the equally R&B "Thanks and Praise," and while the album returns to the singer's island home for later tracks like "Sensi" and the nyahbinghi driven "More Money," fans craving a full roots reggae affair will find the artistically evolving Gyptian is thinking otherwise. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi

My Name Is Gyptian Play

Gyptian's heartbreaking single "Serious Times" became Jamaica's favorite song in 2005, no small feat considering its main competition was Damian "Junior Gong" Marley's massive hit "Welcome to Jamrock." A loose, earthy ballad with nyahbinghi drums and sufferer's lyrics, "Serious Times" is a 21st century, roots-minded classic that benefits from casual production, but the shoe-string budget that gave the song such a front porch vibe is also My Name Is Gyptian's big drawback. The power of Gyptian's delivery and his dedication to every tune deserves better surroundings, and one has to wonder why the powers that be put "What Are We Fighting For" and the redundant "Stop the Fussing and Fighting" right next to one another. Regardless of the pasted-together feel to the album, the singer carries many of the tunes on delivery alone, turning everyday lovers rock into beautiful, timeless seduction songs. The socially aware numbers give the album some substantial weight with the cautionary "School Girl" and the comforting "Ma Ma" carrying on the "Serious Times" tradition. While a better-built showcase could have put the talented and sincere Gyptian on reggae's top shelf, his debut has enough exciting moments to make it an easy recommendation for the roots reggae faithful. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi

Hold You Play

You’d think they would be a patient bunch, but fans of that reggae genre called lover's rock are surprisingly impatient, willing to declare you finished if you spend 12 months off the radio. When Gyptian spent most of 2009 off the charts, the chatter began, but his romantic and rather sexual (you’ll have to speak Jamaican patois to catch it all) hit, “Hold You,” was a massive return, not only in his homeland but in the usually reggae-shy U.S. where it made an impact on urban radio. Hold You, the album, is filled with worthy follow-ups and support material, all of it performed in that cool, almost woozy, and almost whiney style Gyptian is known for, although he does sound more confident and in control than usual. Maybe this is the reason the album tries a little harder when it comes to its overall construction, as intros, interludes, and even an instrumental help link these prime cuts for an even bigger experience. Longtime fans may notice that “Beautiful Lady” from his 2006 debut album is back, probably to introduce all the new, international fans to the near perfect cut. Veterans can skip it and still be left with a substantial set of tunes while newcomers can consider it a welcome bonus, adding value to what’s already the singer’s strongest album to date. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi

Sex, Love & Reggae Play

With his 2010 album Hold You and its hit title track, Gyptian became reggae music's unofficial ambassador to the world. Add a Nicki Minaj-featuring remix or dubstepping, bass-dropping mixes from the likes of Diplo and Toddla T, and the singer became the genre's Wayne Gretzky, its David Beckham, or its Tiger Woods; a figure who could bring in a new audience like Marley, Tosh, Shaggy, and Sean Paul had done before. The most interesting bit has to be that unlike Marley and Tosh, Gyptian's music has skillfully shifted with his success, as the slick Sex Love & Reggae suggests sufferer's songs are now in his rearview mirror (check previous hits "Serious Times" or "Mama" for some Rasta-approved new roots music), while the future looks like bling and bottle service. Not entirely though, as "One More Time" with Melanie Fiona is a lovers rock throwback, "Majestic Lady" with Estelle is like a sequel to his hit "Beautiful Lady," and the cover of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" is sweet, sane, and sincere enough for highlight status, but the intro to the album is titled "G Spot," and it’s a bombastic intro of epic proportions. It's a suitable one, too, as big-time pop-reggae like "Be Alright" pushes Gyptian into Wyclef territory, while the stomping dancehall tech of "I'm So" is like G-Unit moved to JA, and yet Gyptian commands the cut, sternly and thoroughly. Even when Diplo returns on the title track with an electro beat and his Major Lazer crew, Gyptian and Bunji Garlin tip the scales toward fast and furious reggae. As a nod to the singer's island neighbors, "Wet Fete" cares little for what U.S. and European Union tastes prefer, catering instead to the Trinidadian people with some Kes the Band-featuring Soca. In other words, excitement abounds on this varied effort and the execution is on point, but reggae fans who have their taste set on "purist" might think there's too much booty talk and big pimpin'. There is plenty, and there's a tad too much music, too, as 17 mostly hedonistic numbers make this a long haul party, but Sex, Love & Reggae generally wins with its "get it while you can" attitude, so consider it Gyptian's worthy weekend album. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi
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